What happened to Peru? – Part 1, Arequipa

Indeed, a damn good question. What did happen to it? Here I am, back home in the UK reliving my trip through the blogs that I wrote when something starts to look amiss. I have Argentina, then there is Bolivia, oh, and a bit of Chile.

But, where is Peru? Nada. Nothing. I must have completely forgotten to write a blog post about it. I don’t even have a draft saved anywhere in my files.

So here it is. From memory and from my notes. Apologies if I miss anything out and no doubt if I do, Spongebob and Squarepants (you know who you are) will correct the record.

My first stop in Peru was at Arequipa. When I finally got there. This was a trip in itself. Leaving Arica (on the Chilean side of the border) at 8am I had to share a collectivo (shared taxi) with 3 locals who were also heading into Peru. The first part of the journey took the best part of an hour, to the Chile border. We then had a long wait before clearing Chilean customs and off we went again to the Peru border, again for another wait. After finishing up with the formalities it was back in the collectivo and about an hour later we were in Tacna, the first town in Peru.

We got dropped off at the bus station and my first job was to find an ATM so I could get some Peruvian currency. After trudging around two bus stations I managed to find a working cash machine and got my all important Peruvian Soles. Now I had to lug my bag around the station as I found a bus that went to Arequipa, some 6 hours away.

After a breakfast of a croissant and a bottle of Inka Cola I found myself on the 11.45am Tacna to Arequipa bus, run by Flores. My first taste of Peruvian buses. I had been recommended to use Cruz del Sur but that bus didn’t set off til an hour later and I wanted to get back on the road.

The journey was pleasant enough, as much as a 6 hour (that becomes 8) can be and I was deposited in Areqiuipa bus station after night fall. This is where the fun began. I had read numerous stories, and been warned, about taking certain taxis in Arequipa. The town is renowned for taxi kidnappings, where you are taken to the nearest cash point and made to empty your bank account. The taxis to avoid were so-called “match box” taxis and I thought they would be easy to avoid. However, on arrival in Arequipa it seemed that all the taxis were of this variety. Shit, I’m gonna get kidnapped. It’s getting late, it’s dark and i’m tired. Please don’t kidnap me.

So, with bag on back, off I went, out of the bus station, into the street to find a taxi that I hoped would take me to the hostel and not the nearest ATM. And I found one thankfully. A bit more expensive that I wanted to pay but I was grateful to arrive safely at Arequipay Backpacker House in one piece, and with all my money.

And what a welcome. The hostel was one of the best I have ever stayed in. It was a large, modern house with all the amenities one could ever hope for. Large reception, pool table, table tennis table (at which I was later to show my prowess – you reading Vix?), a large TV in the lounge and a 52″ TV in the movie room. And wi-fi through the whole house. It was amazing and only a 15 minute walk to a large supermarket.

I was in a 3 bed dorm with two great English girls, Vicky and Hannah. It’s fair to say that they were engrossed in their Kindles for most of the time but when they got bored, and wanted to chat, they were good fun. We found ourselves travelling on together from Arequipa to first Puno and then onto Cusco.

Arequipa itself is a town with some great looking buildings but if i’m honest, I was expecting a whole lot more after the way that some travellers had talked it up. Yeah, Santa Catalina monastery is amazing, and the centre had some amazing buildings, but again i was a little underwhelmed. It may have been a bit of fatigue, or a case of “No More Rocks” (read this great blog post) but I was slightly disappointed. Traffic mayhem, people and touts everywhere, it was a relief to chill in the hostel in the evening. A cold beer, a takeout and a movie. Bliss.